Handbook on the Rule of Law
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Handbook on the Rule of Law

Edited by Christopher May and Adam Winchester

The discussion of the norm of the rule of law has broken out of the confines of jurisprudence and is of growing interest to many non-legal researchers. A range of issues are explored in this volume that will help non-specialists with an interest in the rule of law develop a nuanced understanding of its character and political implications. It is explicitly aimed at those who know the rule of law is important and while having little legal background, would like to know more about the norm.
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Chapter 6: The centrality of predictability to the rule of law

Christopher May


This chapter examines the (perhaps) least discussed notion of the trio of norms that sit at the heart of the rule of law: neutrality; uniformity; and predictability. While much is said about neutrality and uniformity, less is said about the requirement for predictability. Thus, in this chapter first, predictability is presented as a way of thinking further about the rule of law’s appeal as a political norm, but secondly, also as a way of exploring the rule of law’s most basic character. This element of the norm of the rule of law, when identified as lacking can immediately falsify the claim that the governance system under discussion should be regarded as exhibiting the rule of law. This chapter therefore examines the value of predictability, both through the lens of economic development and more widely through the manner in which we govern ourselves and our expectations about our social, and private, lives. This leads to the conclusion that any system of social governance that is unable to provide a sustained level of predictability about social action and practice would be unable to substantiate a claim to be a system where the rule of law obtains, whatever its other merits.

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